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(March 20-25, 2007)

Michael Bajko

Dawn at the Free Range

G. Donald Bain

Four Million Tons of Carbon Dioxide

Morro Bay Power Plant, Morro Bay, California, USA

March 23, 2007, 11:50 am PDT

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© 2007 G. Donald Bain, All Rights Reserved.

Four million metric tons - that is how much carbon dioxide a power plant like this will emit in one year.

When it was built fifty years ago this was considered the ideal way to generate electricity. It is fueled by natural gas, which burns clean with far fewer emissions than coal or oil, and without the risks of nuclear power. The 140 meter stacks disperse the small amount of particulate matter over a wide area. There is no need to store fuel on the property.

But times have changed. The first objections to the plant concerned its effects on the rich marine ecology of the area. To cool the plant salt water is drawn in from Morro Bay, along with huge amounts of marine life. Next came concern over the very fine particulate matter vented from the stacks, increasingly recognized as a health risk.

Now the simple production of carbon dioxide is seen to be a critical factor in global climatic change. Ironically, the plant's operator, Duke Energy, has been running it at less than full capacity for several years, claiming that they cannot make money from it. They have applied for permission to rebuild the plant with more modern technology, but with shorter stacks and greater pollution, and no effort to protect marine life.

This panorama was taken on the T-Pier, home to both fishing boats and a Coast Guard rescue station. Morro Rock, 175 meters high, rises through the fog at the mouth of the harbor.
See more panoramas of Big Sur and the Central California Coast (fullscreen versions) on my website: Don Bain's Virtual Guidebooks.

USA-Canada / USA-California

Lat: 35° 22' 14.43" N
Long: 121° 52' 30.85" W

Elevation: sea level

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: Unknown / Undeclared.

Photographed with an Olympus E-500 digital SLR with an 8mm Zuiko fisheye lens, on a Nodal Ninja VR mount, Acratec Ultimate Ballhead, and Velbon carbon-fiber tripod. Stitched with PTGui 6 on a Macintosh dual-Dual-Core Intel Xeon tower, retouched with Photoshop CS3, converted to QTVR using Cubic Converter.
Behind the scene : how this panorama was made
Even though I was the originator of the theme "atmosphere" (Landis and I take turns choosing) I didn't know exactly what I wanted to photograph.

I was watching and waiting for an exceptional sunset or sunrise - but nothing special happened. I considered trying to capture the fog blowing through the Golden Gate, but that didn't work out either. A misty, rainy day would have been great, but it was clear and sunny.

I headed south down the coast for the weekend, and had dinner in the town of Paso Robles at Bad Bubba's Big Barbecue, or was it Big Bubba's Bad Barbecue? Lots of ersatz atmosphere there, cowboy paraphernalia and a mechanical bull.

Eventually I decided on a serious and invisible theme - greenhouse gas emissions, specifically carbon dioxide, symbolized by the big Morro Bay electric generating station. Ironically, the plant was silent, shut down while its owners battle with regulatory agencies and citizens' groups over its future.

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